Fee splitting is covered somewhat under our Insurance section. It is enough of a problem, however, that it deserves more attention.

Fee splitting occurs most between a non-lawyer and a lawyer. Fee splitting between lawyers (in the same firm) is not illegal. Fee splitting between non-lawyers, however, is in most states.

The arrangement works like this:

Larry the lawyer's practice is not going too well. He spent all those years studying law and may have had to take his bar exam more than once to pass it. He's found there's a yellow pages directory full of attorneys and he's just one of the masses.

He's got a family and a mortgage and he just wants to make a living. But clients are beating his door down.

Along comes a friendly doctor, an interpreter, a "paralegal" with ties to the community. This person is willing to direct clients to the attorney, if the attorney is willing to "share the wealth." Many times, the clients have been involved in staged accidents, were not injured in an accident, or sustained a less severe injury than is being claimed. After all, the more clients that are directed to the attorney, the more the non-lawyer can collect, too. And since they have no license to lose and are not bound by any ethical standards, the source of the client is not their problem.

Many cases have been documented across the country where the attorney splits his fee (and sometimes that of his client), usually 20%-50% with the non-lawyer.

If you know of someone splitting fees with an attorney, REPORT them. Settlement fees for staged accidents, or for people who are not injured or for a lesser injury than they claim are paid by YOU.

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